Sentencing changes may raise speeding fines but relax TV licence penaltyOwen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent
Tuesday 24 January 2017 00.01 GMT
Motorists convicted of speeding will face higher fines related to their income while people who fail to pay their TV licences could avoid financial penalties in future, under new sentencing guidelines introduced for magistrates.
As part of the changes, those convicted of causing cruelty to animals are also likely to be handed harsher punishments, particularly if the crime involves harming police horses, guide dogs or creatures working with public services.
The changes, which come into force on 24 April, follow a consultation launched by the Sentencing Council for England and Wales, which promotes greater consistency across the courts.
The council cannot bring in higher penalties than those already set out in legislation but its regular reviews of the factors judges and magistrates should take into consideration when sentencing tend to reflect shifts in public sentiment about the comparative seriousness of different crimes.
For speeding offences, magistrates will be recommended, when dealing with the worst cases, to calculate fines from a starting point of 150% of weekly income rather than the existing level of 100% of weekly income.
Respondents to the council’s consultation said previous guidelines did not take into account the increase in potential harm caused by speeds above the legal limit.
The campaign group RoadPeace told the council that the current banding structure ignores the increase in potential harm caused by higher speeds.
“Breaking a 20mph speed limit takes the probability of killing a pedestrian in a collision from less than 1% to 14% within the first sentencing range, to 37% at the top of the second and to 83% at the top of the third,” RoadPeace said. “This major escalation of potential harm [and actual harm when the deterrence of active travel is considered] only results in a small gradation of penalties.”